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No Goals Typically Means No Growth!

As you prepare to close out 2018 and ready yourself to usher in a new year I suggest we take a closer look NOW at where you want to be at this same time next year—in 2019. Goal setting is a term that Sales Professionals tend to hear so often that they can become numb to its power and its strength. In our profession there are way too many “hacks” out there that basically “let things happen to them” (i.e. playing a “reactive role in their life and profession rather than an “active” role). Often, it’s these same people who sit back and say it wasn’t me, i.e., I am the victim. They haven’t given a single thought to “goal setting”. “Goal Setting” is a sure way out of the victim mentality and frees you to decide what you want.

Why not try a brand-new approach? Map out the success you want to achieve and go from good to great in 2019!

There is no better place to start than to take a look over your shoulder. Did you reach your goals this year?  Did you even know what they were?  Did you accomplish what you wanted?  Did you even know what that was?  Did you go forward?  Did you go backward?  Did you go nowhere?  Did you make more money, less money?  Do you have more accounts, less accounts?  How about the time you spent with your family?  How about your personal fitness?  How about your quality of life?  What are the top 10 events that happened for you this year?  What are all the good things that happened vs. the bad things that happened?

At Sales Coach International we believe in success by design, not chance.  I’m going to give you 7 steps that should be used by sales people, sales managers and professionals all across the board, to design what you want to accomplish in 2019.  These steps are a “take-off” from a book I read by Brian Tracy called “Eat That Frog!”

  1. You have to clearly decide what you would like to accomplish this year.Clearly decide what’s going to look different 365 days from today. Clearly decide what it is that you want inyour life and your career. Clearly decide what it is you want outof your life. Clearly decide what that change is going to be. Clearly decide what car you are going to drive. Clearly decide what house you will live in. Clearly decide how much money you want to make. Clearly decide what your book of business is going to look like. The key word here “CLEARLY”.  You have to be very specific.  You can’t use words like “bigger” or “better” or “more” or “different”. There are two different types of goals. One is “meaningful specifics” and the other is “wandering generalities”.  It is my experience, most people, if they even attempt to get into goal setting, lean toward the latter. “Wandering Generalities” have a lot of “wants” attached but no “specifics”: “I wantto do better”, “I wantto make more money this year”, “I wantto lose some weight this year”, “I wantto drive a nicer car” etc. These aren’t goals.  You’ve got to CLEARLY decide what it is that you want to accomplish—right down to the specifics.
  2. When you have clearly decided what it is you want to accomplish; write it down. Many people have trouble writing goals down because they are not clear on what it is that they want.  I don’t mean to just find any spot to write these down. I don’t mean to just put it in an email or write it on some Word document that can get lost on your hard drive.  How about this? Get a black Mead composition notebook. On the front 2 lines write “2019 goals” and your name. On the top of each page you write down your clear meaningful specific goal. If you don’t write it down, it’s just a dream.  Dreams rarely come true. Goals in writing often do. Once you write it down there is a level of commitment that is often missing when you are simply saying it or even just thinking it. Once you seal it in ink, your mind subconsciously starts to go to work on it.  If you don’t write it down, it isn’t going to happen.  It’s that simple.  So get a notebook!
  3. Set a deadline for reaching your goals.There have been many studies that show average business tends to get 65% more results in the 4thquarter than in the previous 3 quarters.  Why is that?  Because there is a self-imposed deadline.  There is a drop-dead date.  There is an “or else” attached to it!  Customers don’t change. Customers don’t change the way they buy; we change the way we sell.  In the fourth quarter we are more inclined to ask the uncomfortable questions we generally avoid throughout the course of the other 3 quarters.  We impose a sense of urgency on the buying process rather than the customer doing so. Our customers don’t change–WE just operate differently, and this happens when we set our goals– when the clock is ticking on our goals.
  4. Make a list of everything that needs to happen in order to achieve your goals. What got you here? What did your account base look like this year and how many dollars came in from your A accounts and your B accounts and your C accounts?  How much time do you spend on each one of those?  Where are the revenue streams for your commissions?  Where are the revenue streams for your business?  Where did you mostly spend your time this year?  If you keep doing the same things that got you where you are now than chances are you are going to stay here or, with the marketplace rapidly changing, you might even go backwards.  Can you afford that?  Open up your notebook that you recorded your goals in. On each page you are going to have a goal on the top and some of those goals are going to fall into buckets of your professional life. How many sales will you need to make? How much money are you going to make? How much account development are you going to do and how much account service are you going to do? The goal might be more personal such as “quality of life”, “health and fitness” etc. For example, most of you know I am very focused on golf. If there is a change, I want to make in my golf game, I write down exactly what I’m going to improve in 2019. I write how much I’m going to improve, what my handicap is going to be and how many rounds I’m going to play. I might write how many practice rounds I’m going to have, how many lessons I’m going to take, how many outings I’m going to take with the boys, how many top 100 courses I’m going to play in the country. I could focus on what I’m going to do equipment wise, what typesof lessons I’m going to take or how many putts I’m going to average. As you break a goal down in order to achieve your meaningful specific clear goal, there are many things that can be included.  Write down every single thing that has to happen or has to keep happening in order for you to achieve your goal. Don’t worry about the specific order on this step. We’ll cover that next.
  5. Organize your list by priority and sequence and put it into a plan—celebrating your wins along the way.What has to happen first? What happens after that? What is an absolute non-negotiable item that has to happen in order to achieve your goal? What’s going to be the most difficult thing to tackle? I’d probably want to attack that one first. I might have to spend more time on this or read up on it a little. I might have to gain additional training or education. Put some things down and organize that list into a plan. Now you have a plan.  Break it down into milestones and CELEBRATE these accomplishments along the way! If your goal is to lose 25 pounds, don’t wait until you’ve lost 25 pounds to celebrate.  If you lose 2 or 3 pounds in the first month, be excited about it. What do I get if I lose 3 pounds that first month? (I suggest it is something other than a cheeseburger—exciting as that may sound!)  What do you get for a personal reward when you land that big account in the first quarter? What do you get? Celebrate the milestones to give you the fuel to continue the next steps to accomplish your goal.
  6. Once your plan is written, start taking immediate action. Don’t hesitate. Don’t over strategize. Don’t polish it up. I don’t care how mediocre the plan is. I’ll choose a person who attacks a mediocre plan with incredible passion, commitment, enthusiasm and drive, any day, over somebody who’s going to sit back, strategize and polish up the plan. Days and months can be wasted in these types of behaviors and before you know it, nothing gets done.  The key is to take fast, instantaneous action on your plan.
  7. Commit to do something every dayto bring you closer to your goals. This is the “miracle step”.  Take that tiny step every day to bring you closer to what it is you want to accomplish. If you want to become a stronger sales person this year, you may have set a goal to read 15 books on how to be a better sales person.  That may seem like a daunting task but, reading a couple of paragraphs or a chapter every day certainly is not. You have committed a set time each day. You might have to get up a half hour earlier. These are the things that need to happen, a little step at a time.  Passing on that cheeseburger, or dessert, having a salad instead, these are the little things that will get you towards that weight loss. On average, most people spend only 20 days out of 365 working towards their goals. It’s easy to see that if you were to spend 365 days out of 365 doing little steps, you will surpass most on a regular basis.

To recap, the seven steps to follow to go from good to great in 2019 are:

    1. Be very clear on what it is you want to accomplish
    2. Make sure that you write it down and think on paper
    3. You are now the publisher and the editor of a magazine and you have to set a deadline for everything that has to happen.
    4. Make a list of everythingthat must happen in order to achieve your goal.
    5. Organize your list. Put it into a plan and celebrate your wins along the way.
    6. Take immediate action on your plan. Don’t over strategize.
    7. Commit to do something EVERY single day to get you closer to your goal.

If you follow this road map for successful goal setting, there’s no reason 2019 can’t be your BEST year ever. It won’t happen if you don’t design it! So, pick up your pen and get started today! Why wait until January? Design your plan and create the path to go from good to great in 2019!

You Are Already at the End of Q1

As we head into December, closing out another calendar year, many salespeople and sales managers are strategizing how to push some of those final deals across the finish line, how to navigate the inevitable “customer” hide and seek that the Holidays bring, and how to get ready to get ready to get their 2019 goals in line. The reality for many salespeople in many industries is that they are already at (or near the END) of Q1 2019!  Here are three reasons that this is the case:

Your prospects/customers are already looking into 2019 and planning out their needs. 

The markets into which you sell have buyers that are looking into their strategic business needs for the year and budgeting to meet those needs.  Those needs may be based on based upon growth or expansion plans, employee additions, equipment upgrades, or changes in their business structure or direction. Committees are already being formed, responsibilities are being assigned, and decision makers and influencers are getting in line.  Have you had some of these conversations with your key prospects and key accounts? Do you understand “where they are going” and how you might be invited to help them get there?

How many times in 2017-2018 did you get to the dance too late? How many times did you find out too late that prospects and clients had needs that were being met or projects that were being proposed by your competitors; needs or projects that you and your company are better suited to handle?

Your pipeline is anemic and your main focus is trying to close what’s in it instead of filling it.

You’ve heard it for years; The #1 sales strategy is a FULL PIPELINE of opportunities!  You know a full pipeline is the catalyst for your success in conversion rates, margins, and all negotiations!  You KNOW that success breeds success!  You look, feel and even smell different when you are working many opportunities and it seems that there are many options right behind those!  However, it seems to be a common issue that faces salespeople and sales organizations every year and, for many, at the end of quarter. I know you want and need to “hit your numbers” While it is important to passionately and professionally FOLLOW-THROUGH on everything that is currently in your opportunity pipeline, you need to schedule the time to continue to fill it for the next 6 months. Pipeline filling is even more important than pipeline management! Get on the phone or in the field and load up your pipeline for 2019 NOW!

You have had too much of a transactional relationshipwith your clients for the past year.

Don’t you wish that your conversations were deeper with your customer base? Don’t you wish that they discussed upcoming projects more openly with you? Don’t you wish that they shared with you what their goals were for the upcoming year?  If you are only there for your customers and clients when there is a sale/commission to make, would you really consider yourself a partner worthy of these conversations?  OK…let me ask you a final question:  Whose job do you think it is to “tee-up” these conversations?  Consider the term Business Reviewfor a moment.

What if you could invite your Top Five Customers/Clients to sit down with you within the next 2-3 weeks (yes, that soon, if not sooner) to discuss their plans, their goals, and their concerns for the upcoming year?  Wouldn’t this be a fantastic time to dig in and learn where they are heading and what they are hoping to accomplish?  Wouldn’t it be a perfect time to express your gratitude for their trust and business over the past year?  What could you uncover? What could you learn? How might your position yourself as a partner vs. a vendor?

Instead of “riding out the year” or just grinding out the final deals of the year that are currently in your pipeline, start scheduling time to strategically set up your New Year now!

Wandering Generalities vs Meaningful Specifics

As we are quickly heading into the last month of 2018, there are thoughts of New Year’s Resolutions running through the minds of many people.  I have often wondered what it is about the beginning of a new year that sparks so many people to turn over a new leafand begin to do the things that they know they should be doing right now!  It has been estimated that health club memberships increase by 20% every January. During this month, the gym is typically jam packed with new “fitness zealots.”  Unfortunately, the month of February finds the gym attendance plummet back to normal levels.

As salespeople, let’s make a pact to not fall into this pattern of New Years Resolution style goal setting.  The marketplace into which we sell is constantly evolving into one that is weeding out those salespeople that maintain the status quo.  This marketplace is becoming more and more demanding on sales professionals.  Customers have much more access to their options (our competitors) in the marketplace. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all salespeople to set a new goal for their own skill enhancement and growth for the New Year.

Year in and year out we find that it is the salespeople that regularly set their goals that show up on the top of the rankings.  Every time we do a seminar, we ask the question, “Who wants to be more successful next year than they were this year?”  Naturally, there is never a hand that stays down.  Everyone wants to improve, to make more money, to be more successful.  The fact is, most people do not define what MORE SUCCESSFUL is.  That is the main problem:  Most people have Wandering Generality Goals.

A wandering generality goal is one with no specifics to it.  “I want to make a lot of money.  I want to buy a new car.  I want a new house.  I want to be rich.”  While many of these may seem to be worthy pursuits, they have about as much chance of happening as does World Peace.  The danger with wandering generalities is that are not really goals at all.  What they are in fact, are dreams!

Wandering generalities are not written down, do not have timelines, and are very rarely accompanied by a plan for their accomplishment.  Hoping to accomplish something is not a great strategy. Wanting something really bad doesn’t make it happen!

If you, as a sales professional truly wish to accomplish something, that something needs to be written down and defined as specifically as possible.  A Meaningful Specific Goal is one that you have a clear picture of and a specific plan by which to achieve it.  For example:  I drive a new 2019 Jaguar Sedan which is black with tan interior.  I will lease the car by March 25thwith $3,000 down and a monthly payment of $575 for 36 months.  I will accomplish this by closing one more sale per week and saving an additional $1000 in commissions per month for the down payment and subsequent lease and insurance payments.  I will accomplish these additional weekly sales by making 10 additional prospecting calls per day every day for the entire year.  This will result in 4-5 more sales opportunities per week.  With my current closing ration at 1 in 4, I will meet this goal and drive this new car very easily.

Proactive Vs. Reactive

The sales professional in today’s marketplace has more expectations thrust upon him by his customers than ever before.  In fact, most salespeople don’t understand this simple fact!  Instead of rising to the occasion and providing the value that their prospects, customers, and clients seek, they instead choose to do nothingdifferently and opt to lower price to get the business.  As my son Cooper often says, “What are you thinking?  Hellooooo?”

There is a major difference between the Reactive salesperson and the Proactive sales professional. Each person gets up each day with the same opportunity, the same challenge:  to enter the marketplace as a value-add component to the customer and to help that customer choose to buy (or to continue to buy) from them!  In today’s uncertain economic environment with rapid change and consistent inconsistencies in the buyer’s world, it is absolutely necessary to avoid the trapthat the Reactive approach will too often set for you!  Simply showing up to do your job no longer is enough!  Taking the order and delivering as promised is simply not enough anymore.  In fact, low pricing and quality products alone don’t even guarantee you the order anymore.

In speaking with a current Foodservice client of mine recently, I found myself addressing an issue that several of his team members were facing—a severe increase in the price sensitivity and focus on the part of the customer.

Some background info: The salespeople on his team are selling into the restaurant environment as “route salespeople” taking grocery orders weekly from owners and managers. Regularly these customers take calls from salespeople from competing companies that carry the same lines and often the same brands of products.  Left to their own thoughts, the customer will feel that many of the products (and thus those who sell them) are commodities!

The reason for the increase in price sensitivity (even nominal price fluctuations) is quite simple. The restaurant owner in today’s market is in the middle of a perfect storm.  They are seeing higher food prices than ever before.  They are facing additional fuel surcharges from the Foodservice Distributor due to out-of-control oil pricing.  They are seeing customer counts shrinking due to a lack of consumer confidence based upon current economic uncertainty in the financial markets, real estate markets, fuel prices, food prices, etc.  So, in a nutshell, they pay more, sell less, and see no end in sight.  The natural thing for them to do is to analyze where they need to cut back and guess who is naturally first in line?  The vendor that they pay the most—the grocery guy!

As an exercise, I suggested that we analyze the feedback from a sample customer—ABC Café.  This particular restaurant owner has stated that their business is “a bit off” with 3-4 fewer tables being served at lunch and 3-4 fewer tables being served at dinner on average each day.  With an average table at lunch producing $30 in revenue and an average table at dinner producing $50, a rough estimate over a month shows a decrease in about $8,500 in revenues.  That translates to about $100,000 per year in revenues!  That is often then entire take-home pay of the restaurant owner!

This needs to be addressed—PROACTIVELY—by the sales rep if they choose to keep the account and develop the relationship!

Think about this for a moment.  What the customer is saying to you is not as important as what they are saying when you are not around that can and will affect you!  Put on the customer’s “hat” for a moment.  What do you think the topics of conversations might be for him/her with their spouse at home at night?  What decisions do you think they might be weighing?

  • “Do we pay the rent on the restaurant OR the mortgage on our home this month?”
  • “How do we tell our son/daughter that we cannot pay to send them to college this year?”
  • “How much longer can we stay open?”
  • “Will our car get repossessed?”
  • “Maybe one of us needs to get another job to help support the family?”
  • “Who do we need to let goto cut back costs?”
  • “Where else can we cut?”

Every one of these questions is a point of considerable pain that started with just a few less customers per day.  Although it looks small, as you can see, it is not!

It has been my experience that the overwhelming majority of salespeople that have customers facing tight economic times simply choose to de-emphasize it and try to focus on what’s next.  In other words, “I know times are slow for you now but I still need to sell you something so listen up!”

Understand this, very few customers wake up in the morning and get excited about buying what it is that you are selling!  This falls true especially for business customers versus actual consumers.  For example, the restaurant owner didn’t open his doors today to buy groceries!  However, he did open his doors with the intention to make a profit sellingmeals!  He does this by creating a quality product, with over-the-top service, at a price that includes a solid profit margin—and he has to do that many times over each day!  Do you think that most salespeople are having conversations with the restaurant owner about buying more or selling better?   

The retail shop that opened his doors this morning didn’t do so to buy advertising!  He opened his doors to make a profit sellinghis product.  In order to so consistently, he needs customers and for that he needs visibility and differentiation.

The manufacturer doesn’t want to buy your machine parts!  They want to ensure (peace of mind) that their machines stay operational and running at capacity to stay productive and profitable!

When times are tough, each of these buyers looks to the vendors calling upon them. The conversations often come out as price objections and “nickel and dime” conversations.  Now is NOT the time for negotiation tactics or closing tricks!  Now is the time for strong, prepared PARTNER conversations.  Now is the time for YOU to proactively address the main financial concerns of the customer and really DIG/DIAGNOSE where it is that you and your company can help them to do a better job.

The natural human tendency is to assume that “If I spend less, I get to make more!”  Sellers face this very thought process every day and most tend to address it with mundane feature sellingby stating things like Quality-Service-Reliability, blah, blah, blah. It is obvious that higher quality should translate into a better product, but if you cannot connect the dotsfrom your higher quality, better products to their main goal (for example: PROFIT), then your product’s quality is not a desire!

So, here is a great drill for you and your team to get into over the next few weeks:

  • Have some internal conversations within your sales organization with the customer’s business the main topic. Engage the entire sales and service team to bring to the tablethe customer’s point of view.  What are you seeing?  What are you hearing?  What are they saying?  What might they be feeling?  What’s the word on the street?  Is business up?  Down? Why?  How can we help?
  • Set a specific meeting with your Top 10 customers with the specific intention to do a review of their business-with you and otherwise.
  • Steer the conversation during this meeting specifically to the current state of affairs financially.
  • Ask specifically how the current markets (fuel, interest rates, housing markets, etc.) are affecting their sales and their profits.
  • As them what, if any, tough decisions might be on the immediate horizon for them or their company. (Layoffs, cutbacks, closures, product line cancellations, etc.)
  • Ask them how their competitive marketplace looks.  What is their competition doing that they are not or cannot?  What are they doing about this?
  • Ask them what it is that they value most from the current relationship that they have with you as a preferred vendor/partner?
  • Ask them what you could do better to assist them in the profitable growth of their business?

***This is important:  Listen to what they say—with the intent to Understand! Listen to what they say with intent to Add Value!

In advance:

Make sure that you carefully prepare your questions.  Your questions should help you uncover pains and fears that you and your company may be able to assist them with. (Many of these may have absolutely nothing to do with your products but will have everything to do with your value!) Make sure that you are prepared for any and allthings to come up. Don’t get caught off guard!  If negative things so come up—and, done properly, they probably will, do not get defensive! (Remember, you asked for it!) Make sure that you are prepared to take notes.  Make sure that you come to some solid action steps as a result of the conversation—and DON’T DROP THE BALL!!

The very fact that you are willing to address what is going on in their business should differentiate you and your firm.  The very fact that you are willing to sit down and analyze their current business status should elevate you from “one of” the many vendors to “the” value-add partner.  Zig Ziglar said years ago, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!”  Show them that you care more than the competition by having the GUTS to bring up their issues.

It doesn’t matter what business you are in.  Your customer is faced with challenges and choices every day.  Whether YOU bring it up or not, the issues and challenges brought upon by the current economic marketplace are still there!  Would you rather bring it up on yourtermsor have them bring it up on their terms? One may position you as a partner/advisor/expert and the other could very well position you as a victim.  Your choice—Proactive or Reactive?

The Cost of an Undertrained Sales Person

Consider for a moment the cost to your organization that an untrained (or undertrained) sales force can create.  Right now, as you read this, there are thousands of salespeople calling on prospects, customers, and clients with little-to-no idea as to what they can (and need to) do to identify opportunity, qualify buyers, manage common objections, identify buyer’s motivations, position themselves and the company as value-add resources, or ask the right questions to discover needs and to earn the business.  Instead, they have been taught how to pitch, present, and price!

I have the opportunity to work with several salespeople in a coaching capacity each year.  One particular day I was working with a salesperson in the industrial power battery industry.  A customer had set up a meeting with him to come in and explore options on the replacement of batteries on approximately 30 of their 50 fork-lifts.  This was the first visit by the salesman and the meeting was a result of dozens of cold-calls each day to set such an appointment.  The gentleman that we were meeting with was the operations manager and he had expressed a desire to get a quote.  After the obligatory “passing of the cards” and brief introduction of my salesman and his company, the “march towards commoditization” began.

The salesman that I was working with then proceeded to ask to see the equipment.  After a brief tour of the warehouse, we came upon a fleet of fork-lifts.  There were several makes and models as well as many varying sizes.  From a tactical standpoint, the salesperson asked which ones in particular would be in need of new batteries.  Once a thorough inventory (and subsequent notes) had been taken of existing equipment, the salesman proceeded to thank the operations manager for his time and said that he would get back to him with comprehensive quote within the next 48 hours.  At that point, the ops manager replied (pay attention here) with, “No hurry.”   This statement certainly struck me as important but seemed to make no impact on the salesman.

When we got back into the car, I turned to the salesman and proceeded (as I am know to do) with a series of questions that seemed to temper the “price quote” enthusiasm of the salesman.  I am sure that you have thought of some of these as my story unfolded above:

-Qualification of the “buyer”

  • How long have you been in this role of operations manager?
  • Do you make all of the equipment purchasing decisions for this operation?
  • Do you make these decisions for any other company operations?
  • When it comes down to deciding who to award the business to, in addition to yourself, who else might be involved in that process?
  • I see that you currently use ___________ batteries, why are you entertaining a change?
  • In addition to a competitive price, what other elements of value do you consider when purchasing new batteries for your equipment?

-Qualification of the opportunity

  • How many of these fork-lifts have you played a role in acquiring?
  • Why do you have so many different makes and models?
  • Will you be replacing/upgrading any of these in the near future?
  • How often do you typically replace these batteries?
  • What are your expectations of battery life for these units?
  • How are the forklifts currently used?
  • What is your current recharge protocol for your forklifts?
  • How are the forklifts currently maintained?  Who does that?
  • What is the timeframe that you desire to get these batteries replaced?
  • If I were to get you a quote today, when would we need to make sure that we have these batteries in stock for you?

Would you be open to look into a quote not only on the batteries themselves, but on a comprehensive maintenance program designed to extend battery life by up to 30%?

(By the way, here is a valuable exercise for you and your sales team.  Take each of the questions above and see if you can come up valuable reasons why I would ask each question.  If you or your people cannot come up with real-world valid reasons why I would ask these questions—regardless of YOUR industry—you need to pay some attention!)

I can think of dozens more questions depending on how some of the above are answered.  The problem here, however, is that NONE of these questions were asked.

Instead, feeling as if he were doing his job, the salesman simply went about gathering basic information about the “supposed order” and then proceeded to move on to the “proposal of price stage.”  The unfortunate part is that this type of thing is happening every day in every industry.  Our salespeople have been severely undertrained when it comes to uncovering and discovering where, why, who, how, and WHEN!  It seems that they are simply focused on the WHAT!

What do you want to buy and what it will cost you!

In the story above, the operations manager stated that there was “no hurry” to get him a proposal or quote.  At the very least, don’t you think that this should raise a question in the mind of the salesman?  It certainly raised a few for me?

–How was this appointment set and who set it?

–Could urgency and timelines have been established before the proposal stage?

–Did the salesman help to create any additional urgency in the customer?

–Is the operations manager the final decision maker?

–Does he need the quote or is he acquiring it for someone else?

–Is the salesman being measured on quotes or sales?

–Did the salesman provoke thoughts in the ops manager that he was not aware of?

It seems to me that there are an overwhelming amount of salespeople out there that don’t have a strategic bone in their body.  The only thought that seems to enter their mind is based upon making a sale.  Although that is the obvious goal for most situations, the approach that most salespeople take works counterintuitive to that goal!  AND that is costing companies sales, revenues, profits, and relationships every day!

Think about our example story above; The salesperson, left to his own, would have gone back to his office and spent several hours researching and preparing a proposal for an opportunity that was not urgent or pending and quite possibly may have not even been real!  The hours spent on this activity cost you money!   Now, let’s take into account that while he is back at the office working on this quote (that most likely will not produce any near-term revenue) he is not generating new opportunities for the company. I don’t necessarily blame him.  In his mind, he IS pursuing a real sale of 100-200 new batteries.  He has not been trained to qualify or quantify opportunity!  This kind of thing is costing the company money every day but management typically does not see it.  What they see is a quote opportunity instead of a mishandled opportunity and a potential client that will most likely not be earned!

This example only illustrates the need for more training in the areas of opportunity identification and qualification.  Although I center most of our training in this area on questions that need to be asked, the exercise is also based upon knowledge of what each answer could mean in the strategic approach to the sale.  Taking just that one area (discovery) in the sales process, imagine how many times per day, per week, per month, per salesperson that this type of thing occurs (or does not occur.)  The costs to your business could be much more staggering that you might imagine.

Now, think about how many other areas of sales dysfunction exist in your sales team’s day-to-day efforts.  What’s going on in their prospecting efforts, their presentation approach, their objection management efforts, their negotiation steps, and in their attempts to close?  In addition, what are they doing at those trade shows?  What does their pre-call preparation process look like?  How do their follow-up efforts stack up?  How much training has gone into any of these areas for your people?

It is abundantly clear that an uneducated or under-trained sales force is considerably expensive to your organization.  In this economy where many companies are seeing fewer sales opportunities and much greater hesitance and fear in the marketplace into which they sell, any mediocrity in the sales force becomes extremely costly!

In this example, the worst part was that the salesman just didn’t know any better. Why?  Nobody taught him how to do his job as a professional.  Instead they simply said to get out and sell something!  At this point, he is left to learn on his own how to do a better job and uncover true opportunity.

The investment you make in training your people will bare substantial returns if it is consistent, strategic, up-to-date, and actionable!  On the other hand, the cost of not consistently training your salespeople can be invisible but nonetheless, extreme!

Un-education is EXPENSIVE!

Consider for a moment the cost to your organization that an untrained (or undertrained) sales force can create.  Right now, as you read this, there are thousands of salespeople calling on prospects, customer, and clients with little-to-no idea as to what they can (and need to) do to identify opportunity, qualify buyers, manage common objections, identify buyer’s motivations, position themselves and the company as value add resources, or ask the right questions to earn the business.  Instead, they have been taught how to pitch, present, and price!

I have the opportunity to work with numerous salespeople in a coaching capacity each year.  One particular day, I was working with a salesperson in the industrial power battery industry.  A customer had set up a meeting with him to come in and explore options on the replacement of batteries on approximately 30 of their 50 fork-lifts.  This was the first visit by the salesman and the meeting was a result of dozens of cold-calls each day to set such an appointment.  The gentleman that we were meeting with was the operations manager and he had expressed a desire to get a quote.  After the obligatory “passing of the cards” and brief introduction of my salesman and his company, the “march towards commoditization” began.

The salesman that I was working with then proceeded to ask to see the equipment.  After a brief tour of the warehouse, we came upon a fleet of fork-lifts.  There were several makes and models as well as many varying sizes.  From a tactical standpoint, the salesperson asked which ones in particular would be in need of new batteries.  Once a thorough inventory (and subsequent notes) had been taken of existing equipment, the salesman proceeded to thank the operations manager for his time and said that he would get back to him with comprehensive quote within the next 48 hours.  At that point, the ops manager replied (pay attention here) with, “No hurry.”   This statement certainly struck me as important but seemed to make no impact on the salesman.

When we got back into the car, I turned to the salesman and proceeded (as I am known to do) with a series of questions that seemed to temper the “price quote” enthusiasm of the salesman.  I am sure that you have thought of some of these as my story unfolded above:

-Qualification of the “buyer”

  • How long have you been in this role of operations manager?
  • Do you make all of the equipment purchasing decisions for this operation?
  • Do you make these decisions for any other company operations?
  • When it comes down to deciding who to award the business to, in addition to yourself, who else might be involved in that process?
  • I see that you currently use ___________ batteries, why are you entertaining a change?
  • In addition to a competitive price, what other elements of value do you consider when purchasing new batteries for your equipment?

-Qualification of the opportunity

  • How many of these fork-lifts have you played a role in acquiring?
  • Why do you have so many different makes and models?
  • Will you be replacing/upgrading any of these in the near future?
  • How often do you typically replace these batteries?
  • What are your expectations of battery life for these units?
  • How are the forklifts currently used?
  • What is your current recharge protocol for your forklifts?
  • How are the forklifts currently maintained?  Who does that?
  • What is the timeframe that you desire to get these batteries replaced?
  • If I were to get you a quote today, when would we need to make sure that we have these batteries in stock for you?
  • Would you be open to look into a quote not only on the batteries themselves, but on a comprehensive maintenance program designed to extend battery life by up to 30%?

(By the way, here is a valuable exercise for you and your sales team.  Take each of the questions above and see if you can come up valuable reasons why I would ask each question.  If you or your people cannot come up with real-world valid reasons why I would ask these questions—regardless of YOUR industry—you need to pay more attention!)

I can think of dozens more questions depending on how some of the above are answered.  The problem here, however, is that NONE of these questions were asked.

Instead, feeling as if he were doing his job, the salesman simply went about gathering basic information about the “supposed order” and then proceeded to move on to the “proposal of price stage.”  The unfortunate part is that this type of thing is happening every day in every industry.  Our salespeople have been severely undertrained when it comes to uncovering and discovering where, why, who, how, and WHEN!  It seems that they are simply focused on the WHAT!

What do you want to buy and what it will cost you!

In the story above, the operations manager stated that there was “no hurry” to get him a proposal or quote.  At the very least, don’t you think that this should raise a question in the mind of the salesman?  It certainly raised a few for me?

  • How was this appointment set and who set it?
  • Could urgency and timelines have been established before the proposal stage?
  • Did the salesman help to create any additional urgency in the customer?
  • Is the operations manager the final decision maker?
  • Does he need the quote or is he acquiring it for someone else?
  • Is the salesman being measured on quotes or sales?
  • Did the salesman provoke thoughts in the ops manager that he was not aware of?

It seems to me that there are an overwhelming amount of salespeople out there that don’t have a strategic bone in their body.  The only thought that seems to enter their mind is based upon making a sale.  Although that is the obvious goal for most situations, the approach that most salespeople take works counterintuitive to that goal!  AND that is costing companies sales, revenues, profits, and relationships every day!

Think about our example story above; The salesperson, left to his own, would have gone back to his office and spent several hours researching and preparing a proposal for an opportunity that was not urgent or pending and quite possibly may have not even been real!  The hours spent on this activity costs you money!   Now, let’s take into account that while he is back at the office working on this quote (that most likely will not produce any near-term revenue) he is not generating new opportunities for the company. I don’t necessarily blame him.  In his mind, he IS pursuing a real sale of 30 new batteries.  He has not been trained to qualify or quantify opportunity!  This kind of thing is costing the company money every day but management typically does not see it.  What they see is a quote opportunity instead of a mishandled opportunity and a potential client that will most likely not be earned!

This example only illustrates the need for more training in the areas of opportunity identification and qualification.  Although I center most of that training on questions that need to be asked, it is also based upon knowledge of what each answer could mean in the strategic approach to the sale.  Taking just that one area (discovery) in the sales process, imagine how many times per day, per week, per month, per salesperson that this type of thing occurs (or does not occur.)  The costs to your business could be much more staggering that you might imagine.

Now, think about how many other areas of sales dysfunction exist in your sales team’s day-to-day efforts.  What’s going on in their prospecting efforts, their presentation approach, their objection management efforts, their negotiation steps, and in their attempts to close?  In addition, what are they doing at those trade shows?  What does their pre-call preparation process look like?  How do their follow-up efforts stack up?  How much training has gone into any of these areas for your people?

It is abundantly clear that an uneducated or under-trained sales force is considerably expensive to your organization.  In this economy where many companies are seeing fewer sales opportunities and much greater hesitance and fear in the marketplace into which they sell, any mediocrity in the sales force becomes extremely costly!

In this example, the worst part was that the salesman just didn’t know any better. Why?  Nobody taught him how to do his job as a professional.  Instead they simply said to get out and sell something!  At this point, he is left to learn on his own how to do a better job and uncover true opportunity.

The investment you make in training your people will bare substantial returns if it is consistent, strategic, up-to-date, and actionable!  On the other hand, the cost of not consistently training your salespeople can be invisible but nonetheless, extreme!

What Your Customers Really Want!

During the sales cycle, it is the goal (the desired outcome) of the sales professional and the company for which he/she works to close the sale and complete the transaction.  When this occurs, there is typically a transfer of funds that occurs which generates revenue resulting, hopefully, in a profit for the company.

Here is the interesting (painful) part:  The customer is not focused on nor do they care about this transaction.  They do not want the SALE!  They do not care about your profits!  What the customer wants are the things that occur for them based upon what the product or service does!  They want the benefits of ownership—not the ownership!

Here are 5 easy steps to discover what the customer wants:

1-Do your homework (pre-call planning)

2-Ask the right questions (relevance is key)

3-LISTEN with the intent to understand and add value

4-Restate what you heard to gain clarity and agreement

5-Provide a solution and speak to ONLY the solution

 

Let’s look at each step a little closer:

1-Do your homework

Invest your valuable time into the appropriate pre-call strategizing.  Do your best to not only research the company and the person on whom you will be calling, but to also “get in the prospect’s head.”  Ask yourself the following 3 questions:

A-What do we know? (about the person, the company, the decision-making process, etc.)

B-What do we need to know? (to move the sale forward)

C-What do we want to “get out on the table?” (what motivations will drive the sale?)

2-Ask the right questions

If you have done the right things in your pre-call preparation, you will have a clear purpose to your call as well as some relevant questions prepared.  Thinking through all of this in advance will help you ask (with confidence) the right questions which will make the prospect think in a different way about their situation. These questions will also position you as more of an expert and thus, will get better information from the customer.

3-LISTEN with the intent to understand and add value

The answers that come from your customer to the questions that you ask are the keys to your successful sale.  You see, as I said before, the customer does not want to own your product or service!  They don’t even want what it does!  They simply want the benefit of what it does for them.  If you are listening for what it is that they want, the secret to making the sale will come out.  Understand your customer’s motivations and you will understand their motives to take action.  Only then, can you add value and thus, make the sale!

4-Restate what you heard to gain clarity and agreement

The fact that you listened and thought that you understood the customer and their needs is not as important as the fact that the customers knew you were listening and understand them and their needs.  In order to make sure that they understand you were listening, use “re-cap sentence starters” as you feed back what you heard them say before you begin to offer a solution.  Example:  “OK Ms. Customer, let me make sure I understand your main areas of concern.  You…….  or  “OK Paul, let me make sure I’ve got this straight.  You…..  or  “Mary, let me make sure I heard you correctly. You…..”

Prove that you listened—show that you care!  Clarity creates consensus.  Consensus creates trust!

5-Provide a solution and speak only to the solution!

Many times, I see salespeople go through the discovery process (asking questions and listening) where the highest value needs (HVNs) of the customer become evident.  Rather than speak only to those needs, the salesperson breaks into the “presentation” part of the sales call and proceeds to puke all of the FAB (Feature, Advantage, Benefit) points about his product or service.  The Smart Selling suggestions above are designed to discover what your offer should be and what it should NOT be.  In other words, if you do a good job on the 4 points listed above, the customer will tell you which benefit to discuss.  Do that—nothing more!! Leave the other FABs out for now.

The Secret of Smart Selling

“If I put in front of the customer what they want more than anything else, they will, in turn, move heaven and Earth to get it AND pay a premium.”

Stop selling WHAT you want to sell, HOW you want to sell it, WHEN you want to sell it, and WHY you want to sell it!  They are most likely not the reasons your customers want to buy.  After all, aren’t they the boss?

Get Fit to SELL!

Today’s selling marketplace is not the same as it was 10 years ago.  There are more demands on our time.  There are more demands on us.  Customer’s expectations have increased along with their price sensitivity.  We are connected 24/7 via email, voicemail, cell phones, and IM.  We have to move faster, more efficiently, and more often to meet the needs of those with whom we wish to do business.  Our managers expect us to stop what we are doing and jump on a plane, make a sales call, fix a problem, take a client to a ballgame, have a late-night dinner, and do a variety of things to make sure that we don’t lose an opportunity or a client.

What is the answer as to how to compete—how to keep up?  Well, I have chosen to address part of the answer in this article.  GET FIT for the challenges that you face daily.  Oxygen has become an amazing additive to my daily/weekly diet through exercise.  Now, before you sign off in disgust at another exercise convert, I challenge you to read on….but only if you are interested in an EASY way to gain some additional edge over your competition.

Oh….do I have your attention?

The brain apparently is an organ that gives back in accordance to what it is given.  I have, for years touted the importance of feeding the brain by reading, listening to tapes and CDs in the areas in which you wish to improve, attending workshops & seminars, and reading industry magazines (yours and your customer’s).  It has long been my opinion that the more you feed your brain in the areas of expertise you need, the better your “shot” at becoming what you seek.  Although that has not changed, I now firmly believe in the feeding of something else to the brain—OXYGEN!

By setting up and following a simple regimen of exercise, you may very well increase your sales ability dramatically.  Let me see if I can give you a real-world example:

As a speaker, it is absolutely imperative that I am ON when I am on the speaking platform.  There is no excuse for a lackluster performance.  A client has engaged me to deliver a well-prepared message-to deliver content-and to do so in a way that will spark changes in behavior and thus, changes in results.  I need to be on my game.  I need to be well prepared and set to handle whatever may be thrown my way by the audience.  (Almost sounds like a sales call, doesn’t it?)

A while back, I was in Canada delivering two separate sessions to two different groups of CEOs regarding the development of a World Class Sales Organization.  I was to deliver two separate 4-hour sessions that would cover a variety of subjects including recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training, retraining, and retaining of sales talent.  Because of the audiences that I would be addressing, (CEOs) I had to be prepared to adjust my content to the desires of those in attendance and be prepared for group questions, challenges, and other interaction.  Although I have delivered over 500 of these sessions over the years, every group is different and something new may come up at any time—I must be on my game!

The night that I arrived, I made sure that I got into my hotel and got prepared to deliver for the next morning.  My plane arrived late and I got to the hotel about 10:00pm.  I immediately unpacked for the next morning (my 1st session was to start at 8:00am).  After falling asleep around midnight, I arose at 5:00am to get in a workout in the hotel gym.  I have to say, I was not particularly motivated when I got up, but 10 minutes into a 2-mile run, I was looking forward to the weight room.  90 minutes later, I was set for the day.

My session that morning to my first group of CEOs was fantastic.  I had a very engaged group of people that questioned and challenged me throughout.  The session was delivered with high energy and it came sooooo easy.  It seemed that I had just begun speaking when I was given the sign that the session was over.  The grades that I received were unanimously perfect.  Not only was the session an effortless BLAST for me.  Apparently, the group thought it was content rich and value packed as well.

The balance of that day went to a coaching session with a client of mine that flew in from Winnipeg followed by dinner and a couple of bottles of wine.  Needless to say, the evening was late and the next morning held no exercise activity before I was going LIVE again at 8:00am.  Although the session was very similar and the audience was equally engaged, I had to put in much greater effort to get similar results.  I had to think more and try harder.  Why?  In my opinion, my brain did not get that release of oxygen in the morning before the session.  Although the end result was pretty much the same (great reviews), the effort I had to put in to get there was almost twice as much!

Have you ever noticed some sales seem to be effortless works of art where you gain an immediate connection with the prospect?  The questions that you asked seem to move the prospect towards your offer.  The answers that the customer seeks are right on the tip of your tongue and they come out so smooth.  The rapport and trust that you built was done so with very little effort and you walk away with a sale that you didn’t even have to ask for.  I’m here to tell you that the majority of your sales can go like that if you get in shape for selling.

Here’s all you have to do:

First, you gotta want it.  If you don’t do it for your health, do it for the additional commissions!

Second, you need to design a plan.  Use the 3 C’s:  Clarity-Commitment-Consistency

(Be CLEAR on what it is that you will do each day—Stay COMMITTED to your plan—and stay CONSISTENT with your efforts to feed your brain every day.)

Third, Take immediate ACTION to get started.

Whether you choose to walk, run, swim, or hit the gym and stretch or push some iron around, I challenge you to take that first step to your health and selling success by setting in ACTION a plan to “Get Fit for Selling”.

It’s TIME!!!

Image result for evaluateOK….June is almost in the books and we will officially done with the first half of 2018!  It’s time to take a look at your progress thus far and to make some adjustments where necessary.  It’s time to evaluate your half-time performance and to plan your second half approach.

If you are not tracking on your goals or close to where you need to be on your progress, you are going to have to step up and make some changes.  Why?

“If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting!”

The things that you have done thus far have produced results that YOU deem to be unworthy of the effort.  So, I guess it stands to reason that the efforts need to be increased or refocused!  If you choose not to, there is a fair certainty that you will be considerably further from your annual goal come this December.

Now, you may be saying (in fact, I can almost hear it) “But Gerry…I am already working my butt off!  How much more can I do?”  I did not specifically suggest that you had to do MORE, but you definitely need to reassess if what it is that you are doing (and how you are doing it) is effective to meet your desired results—the lack of which would already indicate they are NOT.

Remember, simply doing more of what it is that you are doing today will not always get you better results, but it may.  Remember, doing what you do differently than you do it today may not get you better results, but it may.  Doing what you do BETTER will always get you better results—guaranteed.  The trick is to “crack the code” on what BETTER means!

Keep in mind that the results that you get are often due in part to how it is that you think and what you believe to be true about yourself.  Your attitude plays a major role in the results that you get because it drives your belief.

Make an IMPACT!

fine image of classic 3d newton cradle background

One of the main areas that I have found myself coaching salespeople the past few months is IMPACT.  I contend that, although it is important to be the best that you absolutely can be in every interaction with a prospect, customer, or client, you do not have to be the best that they have ever seen.  You don’t have to be the smoothest talker.  You don’t have to be the silver-tongued devil that has an answer for every question. You do, however, need to make an IMPACT!  What does that mean?  What questions might you ask yourself before the sales call to ensure that an IMPACT can be made? After some thought, I have chosen to define IMPACT as a combination of the following areas:

I-IMPRESSION  “What impression do I want them to have of me?”  There are a variety of impressions that prospects, customers, and clients can have of us based upon any interaction.  Unfortunately, not all of them are positive!  But, with proper preparation, we can focus on doing the things necessary to “stack the deck” in our favor.  The best sales professionals today are very cognizant of the customer perspective and thus, very aware of every move they make, how they look, how they prepare, and how they show.  Here are a few examples (both positive and negative) of impressions that we can leave:

  • Professional UN-Professional
  • Respectful DIS-Respectful
  • Interested Deal Focused
  • Resource Salesperson
  • Solution Problem
  • Investment Cost

M-MEMORABLE “What do I want them to remember when I’m gone?” One of the keys to making an IMPACT is being memorable in the minds of your prospect, customer, or client. This often comes from making strong statement utilizing your best “power phrases.” Every solid sales professional has their “go-to” phrases or “word-tracks” that truly drive home the desired point. It is often this phrase that makes an IMPACT. Here is an example of one of my favorites I’ve used for years when faced with a customer with price concerns:

  • “I understand that you can get a similar product/service from one of my competitors at a lower initial price. In fact, if what you pay is your main deciding factor, you most likely will not do business with me. However, if your concern is more about what you get for what you pay, then you will do business with nobody but me!”

P-P.P.O.D.  “What Positive Perception Of Difference will I make such that they will go out of their way and/or pay a premium to do business with me?”  The best salespeople are always attempting to create differentiation in the marketplace between themselves and the competition.  They furthermore realize that differentiation comes from their actions as well as their words.  They create a positive perception of difference through the way they dress, the way they ask questions, the way they “brand” themselves before, during, and after the sale, the way they present their opportunity, or the way they ask for the business.  The best realize that typically it is the companies that “stand out” that have the highest return of customers and thus they look to “stand out” as well.

A-ASK QUESTIONS AND LISTEN  “What do I need to know in order to increase my chances of winning the sale?”  The best sales professionals realize that the strongest sentence that they can put “out there” to a prospect, customer, or client ends in a question mark!  While their competitors are out there showing up and throwing up on sales calls, they are probing, digging, inquiring, going deeper, diagnosing, and finding out their customers highest value needs and motivators so that they can provide the best solution.  Defined as “The Shortest Course on Selling,” the art of asking questions and listening does more to make an IMPACT than anything else you could ever hope to do!

  • “If you ask the right questions and truly listen to your customer’s answers, they will explain your business to you!”
  • “Nobody ever LISTENED themselves out of a sale!” 

C-CHARACTER (Have one-Don’t BE one!) “How will I increase the perceived value of my product/service through my rock-solid character?”  It has been said that a well-rounded character is square in all his/her dealings. Selling is defined as a transfer of trust. Sales pros need to make sure that transfer is made early and often throughout the sales process.  That doesn’t happen by speaking negatively about the competition, a prospect’s prior decision, your internal sales support, or anyone else.  It also does not come from speaking about your customer’s competitor that you sell to.  What it does come from is sincere professionalism in every aspect of your interaction with prospects, customers, and clients (even behind the scenes.)

  • “Character is what happens when nobody is looking!”

T-TOUCH ‘EM  “How will I make sure that they know me beforehand, hear me during, and don’t forget me afterwards?”  It has often been said, “In business, it is not what you know but who you know.”  The best sales professionals believe, “It is not who I know but who knows me that counts in business!”  Companies spend millions of marketing dollars to “brand” themselves and create a “top of consciousness” in the minds of their customers through a variety of ways that they touch them.  Today’s top producers realize that the best way that can assure that their prospects, customers, and clients think of them when a need to buy comes about is through frequent, repetitious contact before, during, and after the initial sale.  These touches come in many forms and include a combination of personal contact, letters, e-mails, faxes, mailed articles, postcards, value-add newsletters, suggestions, referrals, reference requests, thank you cards, holiday/anniversary cards, and many, many more.  A word of caution, however, is to make sure that you don’t do what everyone else is doing. (See PPOD above!)

By making an IMPACT On your prospects, customers, and clients in all you do, you stand a better chance as a sales professional to earn their business now and forever.  Contrary to popular current books in the marketplace, the little things do matter so sweat them all!  Remember, there is a big burden on you to have to be the best and only one can achieve that.  But every sales professional has the ability (and duty) to make an IMPACT!  Happy hunting!